Do you let setbacks break you or make you stronger? This week board-certified physician, scientist, and executive coach, Dr. Eva Selhub teaches us how to become more resilient, with insights from her book, Resilience for Dummies.
Resiliency Expert & Executive Coach
Maria Marlowe: [00:00:34] Welcome back to the Happier and Healthier podcast. I am so excited for you guys to tune into this episode today. It was just amazing. Today I got the chance to sit down with Dr. Eva Selhub and talk about building resilience, which is something we can all use more of. Dr. Selhub is a board-certified physician, scientist, and executive leadership and performance coach. She served as an instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and as a clinical associate of the world-renowned Benson Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at the Massachusetts General Hospital for close to twenty years. And six of those years, she served as medical director. Today she’s here to talk about her book, Resilience for Dummies, which is all about building resilience, bouncing back from adversity, and especially after this doozy of a year, a year and a half, I think this is long overdue.
Maria Marlowe: [00:01:43] Personally, I’ve been actively working on building resilience for the past few years, and for me, it’s really been life-changing. I think it’s one of the most impactful and beneficial things that we can do, because pandemic or no pandemic, we will always face adversity in life. There will always be downs, there will always be challenges. And it’s not our circumstances that shape our life as much as it is our reaction to those circumstances. So today, Dr. Selhub is really going to help us react in a more positive manner, in a manner where a challenge doesn’t become something that breaks us. It becomes something that makes us stronger.
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Maria Marlowe: [00:03:30] So, Dr. Selhub, thank you for being here.
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:03:33] Thank you for having me.
Maria Marlowe: [00:03:35] You have a lot of titles, you have a lot of accomplishments, and you have an upcoming book on resilience. So let’s kind of start at the beginning. How did you get here? How did you get to be this expert on resilience?
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:03:50] Well, you know, as most people get to be experts in resilience, I think it’s because they’ve weathered some storms and they’ve learned a few things. And then on top of that, I did a little bit of studying and some work. Right? But from a professional perspective, I started out as an internist in medicine and it actually started before then. So when I was a resident in medicine, I was trained at Boston City Hospital so this is back in the 90s where it’s a rough place to work. It’s a city hospital, drug users, whatever. And I was stuck with an HIV needle. This is 1996 when people were basically dying gruesome deaths from this horrible virus. And I was stuck really badly with this needle.
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:04:36] And at that point, up until that point, this is June of 1996, I was planning on being a pulmonologist and working in intensive care units and being this academic who saved lives. I had the sort of grandiose idea of who I was and what I was going to be. I was very clear about my future and that just kind of put a stop to things. And I literally didn’t know what was going to happen. I didn’t know whether I was going to live. I didn’t know whether I was going to be able to work again in my school. And the thing that actually devastated me the most was that I was 28 years old and single or whatever I was at that time and that I was going to die unloved.
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:05:16] And I just cried a lot and I had to go on medication to prevent conversion. It was what’s called the post-exposure prophylactic cocktail that had just been released by the NIH back then. I was one of the first people to try it. And it was 14 pills a day for 6 weeks. So I went from being a healthy twenty-eight-year-old to be a very sickly twenty-eight-year-old, very quickly taking these medications. Not to mention that I was stressed out of my mind. I was crying all the time. And really the only thing that got me through anything were my friends and family and colleagues. They just sort of stuck by me.
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:05:50] And I did a lot of bargaining at that point. I said, if there is a God and you let me live, I promise. I said I promise I’ll be a better person. I’ll promise I’ll work harder. I promise I’ll change the course of my career and take care of people who really need me. And so 6 weeks went by and I did not contract HIV and I said, Okay, I got to live up to my part of the bargain and change the course of my career. And I decided to go into internal medicine, which I never wanted to do. And even followed a midwife around so I was really taking it seriously.
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:06:22] I was keeping up my part of the bargain and then over, let’s see, that was probably, say July. Between July and November, my dog died, my grandfather died, somebody started harassing me and writing letters to the medical board that I had to take to court. My apartment burned down. I lost all my possessions and didn’t have renter’s insurance. And my father had a heart attack, survived but it was nonetheless. From June to… That was sort of from June to November that was kind of the course of events that literally brought me to my knees.
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:06:53] And until that time, like I said, I was a very strong person who had a notion of what she wanted. And I set a goal and I would reach it. I would kind of bulldoze my way through everything and I wasn’t able to bulldoze my way through this. Every time I said, okay, I got this and I got knocked down and I became profoundly depressed and I thought, I don’t even have the energy to smile. I don’t have the energy to think. I can’t put two and two together. I don’t even want to be here. I wasn’t suicidal, but I was at a point where I would have been quite happy if somebody else took my life. I just didn’t have the energy to exist. And I just kind of walked around like a robot from November through March. For a good five or so months I just was not really there until an evening that I went out to dinner with a friend and she said, we miss you, we want you back.
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:07:43] I don’t know what to tell people. I can’t tell you what happened. It was like a light went on and I woke up and I said, What have you been doing? You’ve been walking around like a victim. Keep saying, why me? Why me, why me? I kept saying that over and over again. Why me? Why am I being punished? And what did I do wrong? Why am I not worthy of good things happening to me? That kind of conversation that most of us have at some point and I said, you’re asking the wrong question. The question really isn’t why me, but why not me. Nature, just assume let’s a forest fire burn and it’s not personal. You are taking this personally. Stuff happens. It’s not what happens to you, it’s how you respond to what you make of it, and you need to figure out why there is this belief that you’re somehow bad. Where does that come from? That somehow you’re deserving of being punished. That’s just old. And no, if I have that then most people have that because I have a pretty good life. Right?
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:08:42] So that led me to say I need to figure this out. I don’t have the answers, but I now have a purpose to figure things out. And I started volunteering at the Mind Body Medical Institute For Benson because my job as an internist was at Harvard, I was now going to volunteer in the same institution, and a year into that, they asked me to be the medical director. So now that’s sort of where the course is starting to integrate mind-body medicine, which is meditation, cognitive restructuring, looking at the way you think, looking at food, exercise, and starting to merge the mind-body approach to patient care with my primary care practice. So that was kind of how I sort of got into it with my own suffering that led me to sort of saying I need to know more.
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:09:24] And then whatever I learned for myself, I then imparted on my patients. And through that I started understanding and developing an understanding of stress, physiology of the application of stress, physiology into clinical life, into practical life, and came up with theories and started lecturing and teaching other health care providers on this stuff at Harvard, at the Harvard training courses. And five years in, I said, I don’t want to do this primary care job anymore. I don’t like it.
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:09:51] I was having panic attacks because they were changing the models, what it is now. So this is back in 2001 or 2002. They were changing the model. I said I don’t want to look at my patients as numbers. This doesn’t work for me. And I was hating it. I was stressed and blah, blah, blah. And then this amazing thing happened. My niece was born and I was part of the delivery team that delivered her. And I was in awe. And in the moment of holding this beautiful bloody mess, time stood still and all my problems disappeared. And I thought, well, what is that? That was weird. What is that physiological feeling I just had? I have that when I meditate and I did some research and found that love actually creates the same physiological response to meditation. It stimulates dopamine reward systems in your brain, makes you think anything’s possible, which is why we get stupid when we fall in love.
Maria Marlowe: [00:10:43] It’s the best feeling though, right?
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:10:45] Exactly. And I thought I can tap into that. If I can tap into that with my patients, with my client, then we can actually create a healing process because it’s also the same response that happens in the placebo response, which is the mind’s ability to heal a body. Right? We know about placebo because you take a sugar pill or an actual pill and the placebo does the same thing. People do that to prove that the pill is working or not working. For me, it shows how powerful the mind is in healing the body.
Maria Marlowe: [00:11:11] And I think if the placebo effect works, it works. There’s nothing wrong with that. I mean it’s better. As long as you’re getting the effect you want then there’s nothing wrong with that.
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:11:23] It shows how powerful we can be. So that was sort of to me like, wow, I have the power to change my mind, which can change the outcome of my health, but also the outcome of my life. So from that led to leaving my job in medicine and starting to study with other healers. And long story short, I opened up my own practice of merging East and West together, and I did that until a couple of years ago. I closed that down a few years ago, but over time moved into a coaching practice and working with corporations and consulting and that sort of thing. Because essentially what I did was discover that the earth, the universe has all these tools available for us to be able to adapt and thrive.
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:12:08] But if we don’t pay attention, if we’re not self-aware, we’re not aware of the signals that are coming through, we’re not aware of what our bodies are asking for, what our soul is asking for. And when we become in tune we then are able to support ourselves, our physical vitality, emotional balance, spiritual connection, mental clarity and toughness, loving relationships, and understanding our influence as leaders in the community. And then we start addressing those and cultivating those. Then we can be resilient no matter what’s happening in our lives or in the world. And so that is sort of the long explanation. But that’s sort of what came to be which is why the book recently is Resilience.
Maria Marlowe: [00:12:51] Well, I love it. And first of all, thank you so much for being so vulnerable and sharing some of your darkest moments. I mean, I was getting chills as I was hearing your life story here. And the truth is, we all have these moments. They look a little bit different for everybody, but we all have them. And exactly what you said, it’s not the circumstances that are going to shape our life. It’s our reaction to them. So that’s why I’m really just so excited to have you on a dive toward resilience. But let’s go back. You mentioned this victim mindset that you used to have, and I kind of feel maybe all of us have had it and we still have it. I feel I’ve gotten over it, too. It’s definitely something that you have to work through. Could you just talk about that a little more? I think sometimes people don’t realize that. You don’t realize that you’re having this victim mindset.
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:13:46] Well, I think it’s important to remember that one of the things I encourage people to think about is there’s nothing good or bad about anything. It just is. Right? And your brain will either go into a victim mindset or victor mindset. It’s just where we vacillate. That means you’re either in the negative or you’re in the positive. Right? You’re in the, you know, this is happening to me or this is happening with me. So our brain will go both ways. Because if I didn’t have fear, then I wouldn’t be motivated to get away from a mugger or a lion. If I wasn’t angry, then I wouldn’t be motivated to create change in the world and protect people I love.
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:14:23] So negative emotions are necessary in order to motivate action. But what happens is, is that when we take those negative emotions and internalize them, we start feeling victimized by our circumstances. But to a certain extent, you are a victim to a mugger. But if I then personalize that and say I’m in a victimized situation, therefore I am a victim then that actually changes your physiological response and also changes how you see yourself within a larger context to this world of being capable of overcoming adversity.
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:14:53] And so then again, it’s not denying trauma as when you have post-traumatic stress, but it’s understanding that there’s post-traumatic growth and people not realizing that you can choose how you see these things happening. Is it happening to me or is it happening with me? Am I a co-creator of my life? Am I a victim now because I have this illness or is it an opportunity for me for growth and learning even though I don’t necesserily like having this illness? You don’t have to like it, but I can also look at it differently. Is this an opportunity for me to do something with it, to teach others? And it’s sort of saying, how can I change the way I look at something? And that is going to change the outcome. It’s like saying it’s raining outside. I’m really pissed off. I’m not going to go out. Or it’s raining outside and I’m going to put on my raincoat. You’re going to have two very different days.
Maria Marlowe: [00:15:46] And I always say this. Our words are so powerful and they are going to influence not just our thoughts, but our actions, just like you said with the raincoat. And it’s actually something, it’s a pet peeve of mine. My mother, whenever it rains, and I love my mom. Hi, Mom if you’re listening. You know, she stopped doing it more recently. But whenever it rains. Oh, it was such a great day. You know, all the negative. I’m like, it’s just rain. You can still go out and it’s not even that bad. And it’s such a subtle little thing that people just don’t realize.
Maria Marlowe: [00:16:21] And I feel like, I mean, I know I was and I’m sure many people were… You’re kind of conditioned to always look at the bad, to always look at the negative. What’s the worst outcome of a situation? So switching your brain and your thoughts around to think, oh, well, what if the best thing happens? Or what if it’s a positive outcome? I think that takes time and work to kind of shift that way. And it’s not necessarily always being positive and like Pollyanna kind of thing, but it’s just being also a problem solver, looking for the solution instead of fixating on the problem.
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:16:57] And also part of this is actually you don’t have to have an emotion around things. If you really want to be a Zen master, is to just go with the flow. Right? To be able to say, oh, it’s raining. Okay, I’m not happy that it’s raining. Let me clear that unhappiness and find ways to feel better. Say okay, it’s raining. Given what is what am I to do. Given what it is what can I do? So what we’ve just done is we’ve opened it up for the possibility of what I can do, what I might do, as opposed to what sucks. So it’s understanding that everything is energy. Everything is energy, your beliefs, your thoughts. Everything is energy and that creates an energetic trajectory.
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:17:35] So when you say, oh, it sucks when it’s raining outside, you literally collapse into the fetal position. Your body collapses, your energy collapses, and you can’t. You’re like a horse with blinders. You can’t see anything. When you clear that energy and you say, okay, it’s raining. You’re not happy or sad. You say, given, what is, what can I do? Now, you just created openness and saying, I have some possibility here. I don’t have to like it, I’m just open to it.
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:18:02] So I always tell people extreme happiness and extreme sadness, both of them are, you’re assessing your value according to the outside world. Well, we want you to have your value within and then the outside world just happens. And then you’re navigating, so your aura is always here. Your locus of control is always here, rather than waiting for the outside world to determine whether or not you can be happy. So I’m going to be happy, I’m going to choose to be happy or connect with happiness, whether it’s raining or the sun is out. Now, is it going to be easier for me to be happy when the sun is up? Absolutely. Will I have to do a little bit more work to connect with a sense of happiness when it’s raining outside? Probably. But I have the option.
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:18:51] So that’s why it’s not so cut and dry when people say, okay, be happy, change perspective when we’re conditioned to be in this way, which many of us have been conditioned that it’s you know if you dare to be happy, something bad will happen. So it sets up the conditioning that we’re actually not worthy of being happy. So there’s a lot of underlying beliefs that are limiting, they create limiting actions, limiting statements, limiting beliefs that prevent us from actually having that resilient mindset.
Maria Marlowe: [00:19:22] That’s actually a big one, this kind of fear around being happy. And I see this a lot even in health coaching and friends and family, people being scared. For example, even, say someone wants to lose weight. Well, they really want to do it. They say that they want to do it. They start changing their habits, they start losing the weight, and then they scare themselves half to death and say, who is this person? I’m not that person. I can’t be that person. So all of a sudden you said this is what you wanted, but then you’re scared to actually achieve it. So, yeah, I don’t know. Maybe let’s unpack that a little bit. How do we even start to address that?
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:20:02] Well, I think it’s a really wonderful and beautiful question because I’ve asked people to figure out who they are. And at the core of the work that I do is, is that. Right? Is to know who the I am is and who the I am is not the strong one or the thin one or the fat one or the healthy one or whatever. Those are just descriptors of how we express ourselves in this lifetime, in this world. Who I am is a divine being having a human experience. That’s who I am. That human experience is sometimes going to be joyous and sometimes it’s going to be sad and sometimes it’s going to be filled with ease and sometimes it’s going to be filled with hardship. But none of that determines my value.
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:20:40] But the way we’ve been conditioned as a human being is thinking that our value lies outside of ourselves. You’re a good girl. You’re a good boy. You’re successful because you’ve got money. You’re successful because you’re married with children. Whatever it is that we’ve been told is success is identity. And so our connection is when my identity is being this person who eats this type of food with other people. And it’s true, though, that when you start eating differently, you lose friends.
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:21:10] Say they want to eat a certain way unless they really love you then they’re willing to deal with you when you eat differently. But it’s challenging, right? It’s challenging. How am I going to be accepted by others? How am I going to navigate a world being a different person? And so by changing that and saying, again, the locus of control is within. I’m just going to stay in a state of happy, in the state of light, in a state of peace. And then my actions will stem from there rather than my actions stemming from thinking my value comes externally. And so it’s a tricky thing, but it’s again, it’s about creating self-awareness, being connected to your body, being connected to the contraction that happens when we feel a certain thing. Then starting to change or sort of our sense of who we are, coming from an internal place rather than an external place. And then happiness comes along easily.
Maria Marlowe: [00:22:06] It’s really life-changing when you make that distinction and you make that change. Yeah. So let’s talk a little bit more about resilience. Reading through the information you sent on the book. What are some of the things that influence our resilience? I know you talk about genetics, education. Can you talk a little bit more about that?
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:22:31] Sure. So genetics play a role like some people are just born with that grit. Some people are just born with the mindset that they fall down, they get right back up. I even think about my sister and I. We’re only 15 months apart, but we’re very different. And not to say that she’s not resilient. And this is the other thing I just want to point out, everybody is resilient. Every human being has an innate ability to be resilient. The fact that you’re here and you’re listening means you’ve been through stuff and you’ve gotten over it and you’re thriving and listening to this podcast.
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:23:07] So everybody has the innate ability to be resilient. It’s just that there are those folks that really rise above it even more. You’ve got whatever, they are successful athletes or they’ve or they’ve had severe traumas in their life and then they rise above it and they’re just still able to have a growth mindset and that sort of positive mental attitude or optimism. And then that’s probably about maybe 30 percent of the population are just born with that ability.
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:23:35] And then there’s the rest of us, the people who might have been born that way. But then life kind of knocked them down. And it’s what Seligman calls learned helplessness. And we just had so many negative life events or negative conditioning that we just start looking at our life as more victimized. And so we start developing helplessness versus that sense of resilience. And then there’s probably a third of the population that’s just born that way. You know, they’re just born more anxious. They’re born feeling more helpless. So genetics, you know, in any condition, it can play anywhere from twenty-five percent to seventy-five percent overall. So that’s how we look at tendencies rather than a set genetic change in the body. But it’s more of like what happens environmentally. So we look at epigenetics.
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:24:22] What happened environmentally to this gene for it to turn itself on and turn itself off? So for that, we’re going to look at your upbringing, critical experiences that happen in your life, whether it’s physical issues. Culture is a big aspect of this, different cultural belief systems, spirituality. Those are going to affect your ability to be resilient in your look at outcomes in life, whether or not things have gone well or whether you’ve been hit hard. What kind of influences you have from your community, what kind of resources you have available to you? So all these things are going to affect one’s ability to be resilient and some people are just born with it. You’re just born with that drive.
Maria Marlowe: [00:25:08] Well, I think, what I’m glad that you said is that genetics play some role, but ultimately your environment and lifestyle can influence, and this can kind of change the trajectory. So maybe you weren’t necessarily born with the genes that make you very resilient. But you can learn it. And I’m curious because, obviously, also as as a coach, as an executive coach, you’ve worked with so many people and I’m sure people at the top of the ladder of success. Even those people that, let’s say, are genetically predisposed to be more resilient, are they working on it at all? I mean, I would imagine even though that they already have that drive, they’re still cultivating it in some way, whether it’s through books or practices or working with you, obviously. I’m sure they’re still working on it.
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:26:03] Yeah, well, that’s the whole point of the resilient mindset, is that they never stop growing. You never stop learning. So part of the resilient mindset is, again, you don’t look at something as a failure or a setback. You don’t take it personally. You look at it as an opportunity for growth and learning and how to… Let’s step back a bit. What is resilience? What does it mean to be resilient? And what I like to describe is you’ve got to drinking utensils on your desk. You’ve got one that’s made out of rubber and one that’s made out of glass. And you’re not looking. Your hand, you’re kind of a klutz and you just kind of swipe your hand, and both drinking utensils fall to the ground from the same height at equals speed. What happens? The glass breaks, the rubber bounces.
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:26:56] The glass you may or may not be able to put back together, and even if you do, it’s not going to be quite the same. ‘Cause it’s broken, right? The rubber bounces right back to its original form. Not only that, now you know that you can drop it in any time you want to be perfectly fine. So resilience is the ability to bounce back into your original form and also have the mindset that should this happen again I’ll be fine, which is making me actually stronger than I was before. So that’s what resilience is. And so even when you look at CEOs and leaders of companies, they’re already resilient because that’s how they got there. However, if their push for success overrides their self-awareness, they’re eventually going to burn something out. And they’re not going to be able to be agile and flexible when things change in the environment, which, I mean look at just what happened, who could have predicted that right? To be able to work through adversity and be able to stay open and versatile so that you can bounce back even when you get hit hard.
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:28:03] And so, I mean, every leader needs to learn that because if they can be that way, then they can enable the entire company to be that way and the executives and the employees or whoever. And so if they’re not open to that, then they’re going to hit a rock in the road and they’ll either be able to bounce from it or not.
Maria Marlowe: [00:28:23] I mean, first of all, that’s a great analogy, I think that just explains it so, so perfectly, so easy to grasp. So what are some of the pillars of resilience? I know you talk that there are six of them.
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:28:38] So I think I mentioned them before. And it really makes sense when you think about it. So all the money in the world means nothing if you’re dead or if you’re sick. So that’s what I tell some of these executives. It’s great you’re making tons of money, but so what if you’re dead, right? And don’t you want to be able to enjoy it and a sick leader is no leader. But one of the first pillars for me is physical vitality. So that’s going to include, it’s kind of like what some of the executives say. Oh, I have tons of energy. Is it real energy or is it fake energy or what do you mean by fake energy? Well, the adrenaline that’s shooting through your body is giving you a sense of energy and probably the five cups of caffeine that you’re drinking. But if you were to take away the caffeine and take away the adrenaline, which we’re going to do right now when we meditate, you tell me whether or not you’ve got energy and invariably people fall asleep or realize how tired they are because the adrenaline is gone. So it’s not true energy.
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:29:37] True energy is that life force that allows us to you know… I was visiting my nephew who’s two and a half, last month and I’m fifty-three years old. I was running around the playground with him like I was twenty. So because I’ve been cultivating my life force. So whether it’s sleep or nutrition or exercise or whatever it is, the fuel that supports our physical vitality so that we can thrive in this world. So that’s one pillar, what we do for that. The second pillar is your emotional equilibrium, which we sort of mentioned earlier as being aware of, am I in a positive state or negative state and if I’m in a negative state, what do I do about it? How do I clear that and find my balance so that I can be objective in the way I deal with the world? The key is objectivity. We don’t make any good decisions when we’re emotional. Just never happens, positive or negative. We’re not going to make a good…You know like we said, when you’re in love, you’re stupid. You just are like, Oh I don’t care. We want objectivity. So that emotional equilibrium is another pillar.
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:30:39] Another pillar is mental clarity, which is the same thing when I’m in negative stress or in a negative state. My mind is like a horse with blinders on. I don’t have access to higher and logical thinking when I’m in severe stress. And not only that, it’s that victim mindset to change it up to that growth mindset, so I call it mental toughness. So mental clarity, mental toughness. It’s our third pillar. The fourth pillar of spiritual connection. So it’s that knowing that we are profoundly connected to something much greater, which we know allows people to be more resilient when we have that deeper connection. It doesn’t have to be anything religious. It could be nature. It could just be a belief that there’s a higher power, whatever, that may be. Doesn’t have to be the same for everybody. It’s just having one.
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:31:24] The fourth one is one of the most important also, which is our relationships, having loving relationships. We’re social beings. We have an innate desire to belong. So that’s necessary for us to feel like we’re capable of thriving, to feel like we belong to someone or something. And also, when you have loving relationships, you know that you have people to go to when times are rough. So that sense of connection is also very important. And the last pillar is bringing those relationships together in a sense of a community and knowing what our place is within that community as leaders. So you don’t have to be the CEO, but you are a leader nonetheless because you have influence and you’re either a boulder or you’re a pebble. But either way, you make waves. So it’s understanding what our influence is on everything around us and our sense of community and leadership. So those are the six pillars.
Maria Marlowe: [00:32:19] So I love that you touched on so many different areas and aspects of life. It kind of touches on a little bit of everything, and it’s important to note that building resilience is a practice. It’s a daily practice. It’s not something you could read one book or do one course and do one exercise. And you’re done. You’re resilient. It’s a daily practice and it includes so many things from your diet and exercise to your meditation practice and managing your stress. It’s a little bit of everything. And I mean, it’s ultimately a healthy lifestyle, a very, very healthy lifestyle. And that’s what helps to build resilience.
Maria Marlowe: [00:32:58] So with spirituality, that’s an interesting topic. I feel, I know my generation or me personally, growing up Catholic, when I was growing up, spirituality was going to church. Then as I got older, that completely stopped. And then spirituality became being in nature or just being connected to something larger than me. But that’s not necessarily codified in some holy book. So, yeah, I don’t know, maybe for you or for someone who’s maybe feels lost in their spiritual path, any recommendations or thoughts that could maybe help them find some connection there?
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:33:38] Yeah, I find that the path to spirituality comes through some type of meditation practice and an easy one would just be mindfulness. So when we start getting outside of our heads, outside of our to-do list, outside of what’s expected of us or what the world says, and you just, you practice moment to moment awareness with appreciation, with breath. So whether you go in or whether you go out. Whether you go into transcendental meditation or prayer or you do a mindfulness walk through nature, it enables the brain to step outside the stress response to enliven the parts of us that feel connected to something greater. But it allows us to also appreciate something greater. You can appreciate nature, appreciate that Mother Earth is so incredible. So I think for me, the easiest way to connect with spirituality is to take a mindful walk through nature. And wherever you want to go. There’s a wonderful practice started in Japan called shinrin-yoku forest bathing.
Maria Marlowe: [00:34:47] I love forest bathing. It’s something I talk about and post about all the time.
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:34:52] It’s really wonderful and it’s literally bathing your senses in the experience of walking in the forest. And not only will it help you feel good and it will raise your energy levels and improve your immune system. So it has all these extreme benefits that actually lasts for six months, not just for that moment but in that experience, when you don’t have a destination, you’re just kind of walking and noticing what you smell and noticing what you see and noticing what you feel and just being in absolute awe. And so the experience of awe, which when I’m teaching, I have people think about something stressful. Then I have them really quickly have them think of something awesome, like watching a child walk for the first time or looking at a beautiful sunset.
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:35:39] That experience of awe is that feeling of expansiveness. Our heart is open, our mind is open and we feel that incredible connection to something bigger. So the way for people to connect with that is through that personal experience, whether it’s meditation or looking at a sunset or whatever that is. But I find the mindful experience of being nature is probably the best way to get people reconnected with spirituality.
Maria Marlowe: [00:36:06] I’m all for that. And let’s unpack the relationship a little bit more because I know that obviously having a relationship is great and being in love, I mean, I remember I’m married now. But when I first met my husband, I mean, that first summer, it was literally like I was walking on air. It was such a fairy tale, you know. But I know, in my age group, the early thirties, late twenties, if you’re not in a relationship and you want to be in a relationship, that is a major source of stress. So just talking with my girlfriends about this. What is your advice there? Because there’s also this pressure for women that your biological clock is ticking and you need to go freeze your eggs. There’s just so much stress on women to find the right relationship. What would you say to anyone who wants to be in a relationship but just has not found it yet?
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:37:01] First of all, I have I’ve coached a lot of people into marriage, into their marriages and babies or whatever it is now through the years, my twenty-five years of being in practice. So it is a definite issue and by the way, continues to be an issue up until your 60s and 70s until you don’t care anymore. And even then, I know people who still care. So it’s not something that goes away. And then there are some people once they get into the relationships and they have issues in the relationship, so it doesn’t go away. So the first relationship that people want to have is the one that you have with yourself. So, again, rather than looking outside of yourself to be completed, which is the way we’ve been programmed into believing, especially women, that you’re nothing unless you’re in a relationship.
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:37:48] I grew up in a very traditional household. And by the way, I chose not to get married because of the way I was brought up. It was sort of my rebellion, which was you make your father happy and get married, make your father happy and have some grandkids. And I was like, well, what about my happiness? I’m the one that doesn’t have long to live. I need to not worry about you and you need to get married so I don’t worry about you. Well, I can’t take care of myself. What? So again and again, he’s just literally kind of off-the-boat traditional. He’s in his eighties.
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:38:20] So it’s sort of thinking about, wait a minute, what’s my value? What’s my worth? Am I weak? Am I nothing without a partner? So it’s not about not having that partnership, but it’s about knowing who I am and then being with somebody else who knows who they are and then coming together rather than… You know, I always say that one of the worst lines that people love is from that Jerry Maguire movie when he says, you complete me. And even though it’s a beautiful line, it’s actually erroneous, it sets us back because no one completes you, because if that person has an expectation of having to complete you, then they can’t complete themselves. And that’s what happens. It breaks up a lot of relationships because each person is looking for the other person to fix them when they have to actually fix themselves.
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:39:09] Like I said, I had coached a lot of people into relationships. I’ve also coached a lot of people in relationships because of the separation that starts happening after the honeymoon period is over. So the key here is, having a relationship with yourself, falling in love with yourself. And from that vibrational stance, you’ll attract the right person for you, whoever that may be. Not only the right person but the right people, the right circumstances that support you to feel happy no matter what. So this is about knowing myself, knowing my value, and attaining my happiness, no matter what’s happening in my life. Knowing that I have a very, very rich life. And so usually you can be a common co-creator of a really wonderful relationship.
Maria Marlowe: [00:39:55] And I think well, two things. One, a love relationship is fantastic, of course. But you could also have other relationships with friends and with family. And those also add color and vitality to your life.
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:40:09] But one person can’t be person everything for you. I think that’s the other thing that a lot of women think that one person is going to fix everything. One person can’t be everything for you. And if you’re in a heterosexual relationship and you’re female, a man is not going to be your girlfriend. You don’t want him to be your girlfriend. You need to have your girlfriends and then you also have him. But don’t put the pressure on him to be everything. He can’t put pressure on you to be everything. So it’s important to have your people that support you that you can be yourself with, you’re going to be feminine with, if you will if that’s again, the relationship you’re choosing. But even if you’re in a same-sex relationship, you just don’t expect that person to be your everything.
Maria Marlowe: [00:40:54] I think that goes for any and every relationship. And it goes back to you can’t rely on that person to “fix you” because you don’t need to be fixed or whatever needs to be fixed, you need to do it internally yourself. Well, one thing that you said was figuring out how to fall in love with yourself. That’s really the first key thing to do. And it sounds great, but how does someone who is not there yet, what’s the first step that they can take to kind of take them down that path to starting to love themselves more? Because I think women, in particular, have these negative records playing in their heads and they’re just kind of conditioned to see their flaws, to see what’s wrong with them, and criticize themselves. So what’s the first step that someone in that position should take?
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:41:41] And I want to say that all my books address this. I mean, I do addresses in Resilience for Dummies. But this is a really big theme because I had to learn it. So it’s a really big thing. And it was a really big thing in my first book called The Love Response, which is self-love is… So the love response is split up into three sections self-love, social love, and spiritual love. So there’s a huge section just on this. And when I first started, I was trying to reprogram this lack of self-love by saying I love myself and I literally would have arguments in my head. I love myself. No, you don’t. I love myself. No, you don’t. Back and forth. So this is a deep thing. And most people have this, whether they’re aware of it or not because we just weren’t brought up in a perfect society.
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:42:27] So the first step is just to be aware that it’s there and to start becoming aware of when you put yourself down. So again, for me, it comes with body awareness, with sensations. When it feels good, it’s going to feel expansive. When it doesn’t feel good, it’s going to feel contracted and notice the ways we limit ourselves, put ourselves down, think that we’re not good enough or any time you get unhappy or sad. Just take a moment to breathe and love. So for me, it’s about reprogramming the belief that I’m not loved by creating visualization techniques, practices that allow me to receive love. And the more I practice receiving love, the more I become familiar with that feeling. And I can recognize when it’s not happening, including when I’m not giving it to myself.
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:43:16] So that’s for me the first step is to start learning how to receive love in a way that’s beautiful and engaging and then notice when you’re not doing it. You know, notice when you’re shaming, blaming or feeling desperate, or feeling fearful. And any time you have that negative feeling, you’re not in a state of love. So we can stop. Now, take a moment like again, I create all the different techniques to help us sort of fix that place where we are and then reassess. Reassess the situation.
Maria Marlowe: [00:43:46] And we can’t talk about resilience without talking about the past year, year, and a half. This has been quite a challenging time for everyone, the world over. And now as we’re starting to see the light a little bit. The vaccines and things are opening up a little bit more. I know back in October, I just felt New York City was dead. It was depressing. Everything was gray. Here we are talking about gray and all of that. But New York City felt dead and now people are out and they’re smiling and it seems alive again. What words of wisdom do you want to share with anyone who is still struggling with everything that’s going on in the world and how it’s changed everything?
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:44:31] And it will continue, to. FYI. I know, I think that, I was having a conversation with some people the other day and I said, you know, vaccines aren’t perfect. You know, what happens oftentimes is people have this sense of, oh, everything’s fine now. You know, they get sort of rear-ended. So it’s again, it’s not about saying, oh, everything’s fine now because I’m free, but it’s appreciating that I’m getting to be free right now. So, again, we’re going back to how do we manage this type of adversity that is affecting us, has affected us and will continue to happen. This is just, we don’t know. Is this the end or is it going to happen again? What’s going to happen in the future? Nothing will ever be the same. Well, nothing is ever the same.
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:45:21] Nothing was the same after World War One and nothing was the same after World War Two. And nothing was the same after the Cold War and so on and so forth. So people forget that life is constantly changing and that Mother Earth is Mother Earth. We don’t have control over it. So what we do have control is how we respond. So for me, during the pandemic, I was like, okay, this is an opportunity for me to go in. It’s an opportunity for me to reassess what’s important to me. It’s an opportunity. Do I like it? No, but I’m going to make it something I can like. So is it ideal? No. So then things open up and I’ve fortunately been able to do some great traveling just in the past month and just got back from the Azores. I felt lucky all along the way.
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:46:08] So I had a twenty-seven-hour flight that I had to you know, and normally I’d probably say a few years ago I would have been annoyed at being stopped at all the customs asking me to… I’d get pulled out of the line, all this crazy stuff, and I was just like, I’m so lucky, I’m so lucky, I’m so lucky. And so it’s the notion that I am lucky. Again, it’s the victor mindset. So even though things might look horrible and sometimes they are, don’t get me wrong. You just got to put your head down and get through it. But other times, you just… It sucks. What are you going to do? I’m going to do the best I can, given what is. I’m going to connect with those people that I can. I’m going to take care of myself the best I can. I’m going to meditate. I’m going to work on cultivating my six pillars of resilience in the way that I can and find ways to achieve bliss despite what’s happening around me.
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:47:02] And so, again, it’s not to give a clear-cut answer. It’s like things have changed and they will continue to change. So I think it’s really important for people to know that if you don’t connect with your spirituality, the ride will be rough. When you connect with your spirituality and your sense of belonging to something much larger than, you’ll be able to coast through this much more easily. That is resilience, it’s being able to weather something without changing your form.
Maria Marlowe: [00:47:32] Being like that rubber glass, that rubber cup and just bouncing back.
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:47:38] That’s right.
Maria Marlowe: [00:47:40] We are always going to have these ups and downs. Some more than others, some further down than others, but we just got to get up.
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:47:48] And some people are more fortunate than others. And then if you have that fortune and you have the bandwidth to go help the people that are less fortunate, that is a big part of resilience. A big part of spirituality is helping other people, it’s altruism. So when you feel lucky and you feel plentiful and you feel abundant and you’re then capable of serving others. So ultimately, your ability to love yourself, to fill yourself up with enough love means the cup then runneth over, and then you’re able to share that love with others. Your purpose in life is to be able to love and to shine joy because it helps other people find their light switch and do the same.
Maria Marlowe: [00:52:09] Thanks so much, Dr. Selhub
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:48:30] So if we’re worried and fearful and concerned and greedy or whatever that is, then we just create more tardiness and we know the world has plenty of tardiness. No need to add to it. So find ways to enhance your sense of love and joy no matter what’s happening around you and when you do, not only will you weather the storm better, but you’ll help others weather the storm better. So those are my words of advice.
Maria Marlowe: [00:48:53] Yeah, it’s this idea of make your mess a message, also. Right? Which is something that you’ve done, something that I’ve done, something that so many people have done. We’ve taken our adversity and our challenges in life, figured it out, and now are helping others do the same. And I think that is one of the most fulfilling things that you can do. It’s just so gratifying.
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:49:14] Exactly. And the more the merrier, right? The more light we shine, the less darkness there is.
Maria Marlowe: [00:49:20] All right. So we’ve talked about so many different things that we can do to improve our resilience and improve our happiness and our health. But if there’s just one thing, one tip or piece of advice, you can leave our listeners with on how they can live a happier and healthier life, what would that be?
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:49:39] Honestly, it would really be about taking puffs of appreciation. I’m going to share this really wonderful story with you before we close because I think it’s really important. So back, sixteen years ago, my niece was two or three years old, and she was playing in the garden and the light was just shining on her just beautifully, you know, like magic. She looked like an angel. And I was looking at her. And she caught me gazing at her. She goes, aunty why do you have that funny look on your face? And I said, because I’m gazing at a miracle.
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:50:15] And she said, what’s a miracle? I said is when you’re witnessing something extraordinary, something amazing. It took her a while and she kind of looked at me and goes, ha, I’m a miracle, I’m a miracle, I’m a miracle. She was running around the whole neighborhood, I’m a miracle, everybody. And I thought to myself, I think she’s on to something. I don’t think I’m the miracle. Why don’t I think I’m a miracle? I don’t think my life is a miracle. But we really are.
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:50:47] If you think about even just getting through the womb, is a big deal. And getting to where you are now and having gone through whatever adversity you’ve gone through, it’s all pretty miraculous, that we’ve gotten this far and that we even walk and talk and do all these things at the same time. It’s pretty astounding. And the human body is pretty amazing and brilliant. And to just be in awe, to take moments throughout your day to be in awe, whether it’s of yourself or of something around you. You could be in awe that you found a parking spot, whatever it may be. So keep a gratitude journal that works for you and just write down four things that you’re in awe of or grateful for every day. And that’s going to start shifting that mindset to feeling like you’re lucky versus unlucky.
Maria Marlowe: [00:51:35] That is fantastic advice. Well, thank you so much for all of your wisdom. Your latest book is Resilience for Dummies. I will link that in the show notes along with your other five, six books?
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:51:47] Four other books.
Maria Marlowe: [00:51:49] Four other books. Five total. Okay, I’ll link the other four books as well, because they also sound pretty juicy and interesting. And where else can people find and connect with you?
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:51:57] They can find, they can go to my website drselhub.com, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. There’s really a lot of content that’s going out every day, so make sure that you tap in.
Maria Marlowe: [00:52:09] Awesome! Well, thanks so much, Dr. Selhub
Dr. Eva Selhub: [00:52:11] Thank you for having me.